The last few years have seen the customer service industry change in many ways. The pandemic has driven an evolution in our ways of working, adoption of digital transformation is everywhere, and the bar is higher than ever for good customer service experiences. What can we expect to see next?
The Customer Contact Week Digital (CCW) report puts the entire industry under the microscope, from customer experience to digital strategy. It delivers insights into contact centre trends and how businesses are updating to adapt to new customer behaviors and evolving engagement tactics.
Here we outline some of the key takeaways from CCW’s Market Study: Future of the Contact Center: A Forecast.
We will look at how companies are focusing on customer satisfaction and loyalty in navigating the “era of customer-centricity”.
We review some of the successes and the pain points that can impact long-term success. And we look beyond the pandemic to find out what the future holds for contact centres in 2022 and beyond.
Read on for the key takeaways from the report alongside some best practice and recommendations.
Call Centre Trends Focus on Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty
Some thought leaders refer to the current landscape as “The era of customer-centricity.” 53% of those surveyed said they are most likely to assess the value of the contact centre based on its ability to generate customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The figure goes some way to confirm that the customer experience has evolved from an insular customer contact focus into a greater business priority. Customer satisfaction and loyalty depend on the quality of interaction with agents.
Pain Points Increasing
To achieve their goal of increasing customer satisfaction and retention, contact centres need to overcome an assortment of new and lingering pain points. They include high agent turnover, inability to successfully and properly support remote work and labour-intensive processes.
Ineffective systems, frustrating workflow, insufficient compensation, and unappealing corporate cultures all contribute to high agent turnover.
When agents quit, their expertise and training time goes with them. Companies are forced to spend time and resources recruiting and onboarding agents that are harder to find in today’s landscape and unlikely to match the productivity of those they replaced.
The Next Evolution Is Remote Work
The popularity of remote work is putting pressure on companies to ensure they have the right technology and processes to keep agents engaged, motivated and up to date on training.
Many companies have yet to build a contact centre framework that can stretch across office walls and geographic borders.
Cumbersome processes have plagued business for a long time. The parallel rise in work-from-home and digital self-service initiatives has only highlighted these shortcomings. Attempts to provide a fast, frictionless experience can be seriously impaired if a WFH agent does not have access to a supervisor to ‘approve’ resolutions.
A Flexible Approach
Contact centres that relied on inertia and complacency to keep seats full and phone lines open are at a heightened risk of losing talent and enduring the cost that comes with it as employees reassess their self-worth, reevaluate career ambitions and reconsider their work–life preferences in the wake of COVID-19.
For many, increasing flexibility is the number one strategy for combating the threat of high agent attrition. But what does this flexibility look like?
The report finds that many contact centres are retaining remote work options and introducing unorthodox scheduling to better accommodate employee work preferences.
Other strategies include improving training and coaching, enhancing contact centre tools and systems, increasing team-building and social functions, boosting perks, rewards, and incentives, and improving career-pathing and growth opportunities.
Technology is also being deployed to facilitate agent engagement, helping to reduce churn.
Era of “Customer-Centricity”
Contact centres can prove their value by cultivating reputations for customer and employee centricity and driving increases in customer lifetime value. The customer experience has evolved from an insular customer contact focus into a greater business priority.
As a result, companies are beginning to appreciate the value of metrics, including the contact centre’s ability to create a customer-centric brand reputation, increase customer lifetime value and create an employee-centric image.
Many companies depend on contact centres to cultivate a reputation for customer-centricity as increasing numbers of customers consider the customer experience when determining which brands to buy from.
A contact centre that delivers consistently impressive experiences is likely to drive favourable word-of-mouth and social chatter which is a valuable source of differentiation that cuts through the noise in today’s increasingly crowded, competitive market landscape.
Research has confirmed the majority of customers will consider a competitor after just one or two bad experiences, but they will also become more loyal to a brand that delivers outstanding interactions that are simultaneously friendly and convenient.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay
Digital adoption has gained a foothold in the past two years because of the pandemic.
The report notes that while some companies will go back to face-to-face interactions, most consumer behaviours have shifted online. Only 12% of contact centres believe they will revert to a traditional, onsite contact centre model.
Poor Digital Performance Does More Harm Than Good
A less than stellar digital performance can be make or break for many customers, with research confirming the majority will consider a competitor after just one or two bad experiences.
The sobering reality is that, according to the report, only 16% of consumers feel digital experiences have markedly improved over the past year, and an alarming 23% actually believe they have gotten worse.
It also found that 20-33% of consumers rated their provider’s digital service offerings from “needing improvement” to “horrible.” That means there’s major room for improvement in the CX space”.
Automation Is Key
Contact centre trends suggest that leaders have numerous initiatives and investments to consider, such as improving customer-facing artificial intelligence (AI), creating more seamless and effective experiences across and within channels, improving the use of AI for employee productivity and better managing customer journeys.
At the frontend or backend, AI reduces the hurdle to relevant customer interactions. Better chatbots yield more effective customer service, while intelligent routing ensures those who need to escalate go directly to the most suitable agent.
AI frees agents from mundane tasks to provide more useful data and guidance, allowing them to build a stronger rapport with customers.
AI-driven bots reduce the time agents spend on simple, repetitive customer tasks to focus on higher-value, more complex interactions.
AI reduces the need to ask repetitive questions or search for complicated answers by gathering more actionable insights from interactions, routing customers to the most suitable agent and simplifying knowledge access through knowledge base optimization.
Other agent-centric use cases involve automating rote processes, like call logging and data entry, unlocking intelligent scheduling and forecasting and delivering real-time training.
In addition to helping remote agents get up to speed without face-to-face guidance, real-time, AI-driven training provides ongoing development.
Lessons can be instantly delivered based on a specific agent’s strengths and weaknesses, delivering effective coaching even when the supervisor cannot hear an agent’s mistakes during calls.
While directly boosting employee productivity, each of these use cases also leads to a simpler, more fulfilling employee experience.
Contact Centre Trends Explained
The report concludes that the typical customer contact function has numerous shortcomings to address, pain points to remedy and gaps to close.
A successful customer experience transformation is about building a customer contact function that can swiftly and effectively adapt to meet changing customer, employee and business standards.
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